Friday, January 24, 2014

A Royal Make-Over

By the late 1970s, the Shannons' Colonial Hotel had become a dilapidated boarding house.  Around the end of 1979 to early 1980, John Brierly, was looking for investment properties in Florida when he happened to drive through Inverness.  Once he saw the deteriorated hotel, it's potential was clear to him.  

Wasting no time, in May of 1980, Brierly and Inverness City Attorney Michael Kovach established Epicure Investments, Ltd. which purchased the property from Bill and Theresa Shannon on May 21, 1980 for $105,000.  Shortly thereafter, Epicure began ambitious renovations of the old hotel.  

Such an event proved to be quite newsworthy in Citrus County.  Local papers chronicled Epicure's progress.

On June 30, 1980, the Ocala Star-Banner featured this photo of the Colonial Hotel accompanied by three articles regarding the hotel's transition:

The Colonial Hotel as featured in The Ocala Star-Banner, June 3, 1980.
Inverness' Colonial Hotel Sold 
Landmark brings $105,000 
Citrus County Bureau 
INVERNESS – The aged Colonial Hotel on North Seminole Ave.Inverness, was bought May 21 by an investment firm headed by Michael Kovach, city attorney. 
Kovach, president of Epicure Investments, Ltd., bought the three story wood frame hotel for $105,000 from the William T. Shannon family of Inverness. 
Kovach told the Star-Banner Monday about the renovation plans in store for the Colonial Hotel. 
“The entire place will be renovated into the style of a British pub,” Kovach said. 
Kovach and Epicure Investments, Ltd., will be the second group this year to attempt to open a large, quality hotel in the downtown Inverness area.  Orlando businessman William T. Rochfort, who owns the Inverness Auto Supply, tried to attract a Holiday Inn franchise to his site at Cooter Pond at the intersection of U.S. 41 and 44 West.  The deal failed when Holiday Inn officials said the traffic count wasn’t high enough. 
Kovach has had extensive experience in renovating antiques.  He owns several old cars that are rebuilt to mint-condition and he was responsible for renovating his present law office at 508 W. Main Street.  Before Kovach moved in, the office building was more like a dilapidated old house, getting well into its sunset years.  Now, it is a modern, air conditioned office building. 
Kovach has hired Inverness architect Frank Kalinski to draw up a set of blueprints for the Colonial Hotel.  These blueprints will be used to determine the renovation process. 
“The Colonial will be totally and mechanically renovated,” Kovach said.  “We have to install electrical wiring, air conditioning, new paint and furniture.” 
An April 1, 1981 date has been tentatively scheduled for the re-opening of the Colonial.  Kovach said a new name for the building “is being debated.” 
“I am thrilled to be involved in bringing back to downtown Inverness a cultural center, a place to be proud of,” Kovach said.  “When we re-open, the Colonial will be a Hotel, not a rooming house.”

Hotel's Origins A Mystery 
By Jorge Sanchez 
Citrus County Bureau 
INVERNESS – If wall could speak, then perhaps the shroud of mystery surrounding the Colonial Hotel in downtown Inverness would be unveiled to reveal the true age and origin on one of the county’s oldest and least-understood landmarks. 
There are no registered blueprints for the aged wooden structure.  County records trail off near the turn of the century, after chronicling a half-dozen ownership changes.  Some people who bought the hotel kept it for nearly 60 years, others sold it after 11 months. 
The present owners of the Colonial, city attorney Michael Kovach, admits he is perplexed as to the origin of his newly-acquired site. 
“I’m very thrilled to be a part of it,” Kovach said, “but I wish I knew when the hotel was built.”  Kovach, President of Epicure Investments Ltd., headed the investment firm’s May 21 purchase of the Colonial Hotel. 
The earliest records of any kind regarding the Colonial are found in a book by Hampton Dunn, titled Back Home, which is a history of Citrus County.  Dunn’s book makes a reference to the 1959 sale of the hotel, then owned by Mrs. Archie Scott, or “Aunt Tom” as she was called.  Mrs. Scott, owner of the hotel since 1901, sold the hotel to an Auburndale businessman, William H. Malloy. 
A later entry in the same section of Dunn’s book says the hotel “has been a community landmark for three-quarters of a century.” 
Marching backwards 75 years from 1959, the count stops at 1884.  From the earliest references in Citrus County records, the Colonial Hotel was known by another name until 1965.  Up to that time, it was the Orange Hotel. 
A glimmer of hope entered into the picture when a box containing a set of blueprints for the Orange Hotel was discovered by Kovach. 
The blueprints, however, just cast a deeper shadow over the mystery of the Orange Hotel. 
“The blueprints show plans for a four-story, brick hotel with a basement and two fireplaces,” Kovach said.  “The present Colonial Hotel is a three story, wood frame structure with no basement and one fireplace.” 
Kovach and others theorize that prior to “Aunt Tom’s” acquisition of the Orange Hotel near the turn of the century, a remnant of the Orange hotel described in the blueprints was transferred from Floral City to Inverness, serving as the core of the new Orange and later Colonial Hotels. 
“There are two firebreaks in the Colonial that could be where the old building stopped and the newer additions begin,” Kovach said, “but I don’t think anyone can really prove that.” 
The records of the City of Inverness can offer no help in determining the age and origin of the building.  
 Zoning records only go back to 1973 when the first zoning code was passed by the City Council.  Building records go back a little further to 1960, but are still of no help in determining something that happened in 1884.  
With the present renovation planned for the Colonial, a strong possibility remains that the true age of the building may never be found. 

*Note:  The article above erroneously reports that Mrs. Scott ("Aunt Tom") sold the hotel to Auburndale businessman, "William H. Malloy".  In fact, that businessman's name was Lynwood N. Smith.  William Maloy (spelled with just one L) was actually Mrs. Scott's second husband with whom she bought and ran the hotel originally.   Mr. Maloy died in 1931. 

A late 1970s view of the Colonial Hotel shortly before renovations began.

One Tenant All That Could Be Found 
Citrus County Bureau 
INVERNESS –  Stepping into the lobby of the Colonial Hotel in downtown Inverness, one is greeted by a hand-painted sign which reads: “Notice: The Colonial Hotel is closing for renovation June 30, 1980.  All tenants and belongings must be out on or before June 30, 1980.” 
Most of the tenants, elderly persons who are retired and living off government pensions, have already left.  The Colonial is deserted by many of its friends who have lived there for decades. 
On a visit to the hotel Monday, there was only one person in the entire three-story building.  He was an elderly gentleman sitting on a swing hanging on the front porch of the Colonial.  
There was no one in the lobby.  The old Shangri-La dining room, once the site of fine dining in Inverness, was closed with boards nailed across the doors. 
There was no one behind the lobby desk, which was bare itself, except for a locked telephone. 
Finding a place for the tenants of the Colonial who have to go, but have nowhere to go to, is the responsibility of Michael Kovach, Inverness City attorney and president of Epicure Investments, Ltd., the firm which purchased the Colonial on May 21.  Epicure Investments plans a massive restoration project for the Colonial Hotel, and that means moving out the tenants. 
“They are an extremely individualistic group,” Kovach said.  “One man, after he was told he had to move said ‘don’t worry about me’.  He was gone the very next day.” 
Kovach and Epicure Investments have offered to pay the moving expenses of any of the tenants who need it, so far, very few have taken him up. 
Kovach thought most of the tenants would be willing to move to Washington Square, an Inverness housing development federally financed for elderly people. 
“They won’t move in there, won’t even consider it,” Kovach said, “Because that would mean having a roommate (the apartments have two bedrooms) and they just won’t accept that.” 
So Kovach and Epicure Investments are putting on a search for empty efficiency apartments and the like that are available in the Inverness area.

On December 8, 1980, the St. Petersburg Times documented the very first stage of the physical renovation:  

Colonial Hotel Under Big Top For A Gigantic Fumigation Show 
by Miriam Cohen.    
INVERNESS – What was called the largest fumigation job in Citrus County’s history was performed last week by a firm that traveled here from Miami. 
The Colonial Hotel in downtown Inverness was tented for fumigation for dry wood termites, and “sidewalk superintendents” watched the procedure with interest.  Florida Pest Control of Crystal River had the job to fumigate the hotel, which is in the process of being renovated.  Since they do not have the equipment to handle the 600,000-cubic-foot job, they called on Fumigation Department Inc. of Miami.  Brad Diehl and three assistants draped the huge tent over the old hotel, the various pieces of the nylon tarpaulin fastened together with metal clips.  When the gas fumigation was over, the sections were pulled down and packed away for the next job. 
“I guess this is the largest building in Citrus County other than the courthouse and hospitals,” said Bruce McCown, manager of Florida Pest Control.  “It’s the biggest job we ever had to do.  But it was all in a day’s work for the Miami firm.  Its largest fumigation job was the 5-million-cubic-foot Miami Senior High School. 
Damage to the hotel from the termites was not substantial, Diehl said.  “But the work was necessary in the view of the large investment of the owners in renovation the building,” he said. 
The project took three days. 

The largest fumigation job in Citrus County history was done last week on the Colonial Hotel in Inverness.
Citrus Times - Hank Cohen

Construction of the large commercial kitchen added to the rear of the hotel.

Crown Hotel architect Frank Kalinski
Key artisans in the hotel's remodel included:

Frank Kalinski

Doug Puterbaugh

Interior Designer
Marilee McIntyre

Glass Works
V.L. Berthelsdorf

The hotel's transformation well underway.

On July 19, 1981, the Ocala Star-Banner reports of construction well underway.  Here, the author of the article calls the hotel by it's former name, the Colonial.  Clearly, even by this late date, the hotel's new name (The Crown Hotel) had yet to be announced.

Hotel To Bring A Little Of Britain To Inverness  
By Keith Morelli, Citrus County Bureau 
INVERNESS – Come September, Inverness residents and tourists will be treated to a little class with the opening of the Colonial Hotel, which is currently undergoing a massive facelift inside and out.  
Workers labor in the hot sun on the roof, sides and grounds surrounding the 34-room hotel while the luckier laborers paint walls, buff floors and frame doors inside the huge structure, located on Seminole Street across from the Inverness City Hall.  
The hotel was purchased last year by Epicure Investments, Inc., a British firm listed on the New York Stock Exchange. 
And, according to those involved in the renovation, the hotel will reflect a British atmosphere complete with English-accented cocktail and restaurant waitresses. 
Doug Puterbaugh, general contractor overseeing the entire renovation project, said the madding crowds of classy people should be wining and dining at the hotel by September.  There are about 35 full-time workers currently employed by Puterbaugh, many of whom are employed by the numerous subcontractors. 
“That’s where the dart board is going.” the bearded Puterbaugh said, pointing to a spot on a wall which has yet to be erected.  He was standing in what will be the lounge area, an area now covered with dust and loose plywood floors.   
“And this here,” he said, pointing to a brick wall about four feet high forming an L-shape in the lounge, “this will be the bar – genuine copper-top.” 
Besides the rooms, lounge and restaurant, there will also be an area for local retail shops along the front of the building, and a pool and outside patio in the back. 
And the whole thing will cost quite a bit of money, according to Puterbaugh, who estimated the overall renovations bill to be about $800,000. 
But you can’t cheat on class.

 ...About 35 workers are employed on the project.

Keith Morelli / Star-Banner

August 12, 1981.   New Crown Hotel in Inverness, formerly the Colonial.
This is the rear of the hotel looking over the pool construction.  Citrus Times - Bob Moreland

December 24, 1981.  The project nearing completion, The St. Petersburg Times reports it won't meet it's perhaps most important deadline. 

Crown Hotel In Inverness Will Not Be Open For The Holidays 
Citrus Times Staff Writer 
INVERNESS – The newly remodeled Crown Hotel, formerly known as the Colonial Hotel, will not be open for the holidays, general manager Jade Rivers told The Times.
Rivers is training the staff, and construction workers are putting in finishing touches to the old structure, located on Seminole Street across from the Inverness Library. 
More than 400 applications were received for service related jobs at the hotel, Rivers said.  An opening in early to mid-January is anticipated, and a grand opening is planned several weeks after that.

In the end, Epicure Investments spent 18 months and an estimated $2 million creating what would in time prove to be the seminal figure in the revitalization of downtown Inverness.

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